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|Seclusion and Kindred: Part One|
Previously on Energy Saga
Team Avatar successfully puts down a coup against Zuko led by Admiral Zhao's son. They also find one of the same symbols that the man who attacked Aang in the Avatar State among the fallen. Katara decides to accompany Aang on some of his Avatar missions.
Chapter Five: Seclusion and Kindred: Part One
Whale Tail Island, 104 AG
Aang was meditating. For the past three weeks he had been traveling to different locations with Katara and Appa. She was accompanying him to assist in his Avatar duties – keeping the peace and balance wherever it was necessary. They had been to the Fire Nation and the Southern Earth Kingdom. Now they were flying on Appa over Whale Tail Island. Aang was in his meditative position at the center of Appa's saddle while Katara was at the reigns, steering the giant sky bison.
Aang and Katara had talked to each other much during these past few weeks together. They were not talking now, of course. Aang needed to concentrate on his meditation. Talking would be a distraction. Flying was not a distraction, though. As an airbender, he was fully accustomed to flying. It was not hard at all for him to concentrate while doing so.
Nevertheless, he did not normally meditate while flying. This was necessary now, though, he thought. He had just recently discovered a new energybending technique. He could enhance his own chi, making himself stronger for a brief period of time. This was to a level that he could normally only achieve while inside the Avatar State. He could bend all four elements as easily as he could normally bend just one element. He was gaining nothing from this that the Avatar State could not already give him. But he desired now to avoid having to risk going into the Avatar State – ever since that mysterious assassin had attacked him. If he was killed in the Avatar State, then the Avatar Cycle of reincarnation would end – forever. After helping his friend Fire Lord Zuko put down a misguided coup, he had found a symbol similar to that of the assassin who tried to kill him while in the Avatar State. It was clear that there were vicious enemies of the Avatar out there and he wanted to avoid taking the risk.
This new technique came with a catch of its own though. After he used it, he was much more powerful and persistent – but he would be steadily weaker for some time afterwards until he recovered from the toll it took on him. Aang had tried to find a way past this obstacle in vain. He would simply have to be careful, he told himself. After mastering this, the next Avatar will be more powerful in the Avatar State because of it – being able to use it while in the Avatar State. He just needed to make sure to tell them when the time came. He could do that when he guided them as Roku had guided him. Earthly teachers of these things were preferable to previous reincarnations, but since no one energybends anymore, that would have to do. Because of not having a teacher, it was hard for him to master it. He had discovered it by accident the first time when he was in the heat of the moment. Now he would have to be self-trained.
He had explained this all to Katara, of course. She was understanding – though she still did not understand energybending or what use it would be. When General Fong had tried to force the Avatar State on him during the Hundred Year War, she had been concerned. The Avatar State seemed scary to her since it had such destructive capabilities and Aang did not act like himself when he was in it. That had been because he had yet to gain control of the Avatar State. Now that Aang was fully-realized though, Katara began to trust his judgment on these matters a little more.
Both of them were wide awake and full of energy, despite the mini-adventure they had experienced just before this flight. A coming natural flood was threatening to devastate a coastal village and the people would be left hopeless and defenseless if it weren't for the two seasoned young waterbending masters. Even as the Avatar it was difficult for Aang to undergo so much bending at once. Katara had been a big help to him in that regard. She had also helped Aang a lot simply with her company. Aang had entered a worldly kind of seclusion as the Avatar. However widely esteemed and respected he was, he still had to walk the path alone. His friends in many nations were comforting to him, but being the Avatar kept him busy everywhere he went. With Katara around, he felt close to someone again.
Gradually, Aang came out of his meditation and turned to his long-term companion, Katara. Although she was facing the other way and he had not spoken yet, she seemed to notice that he was no longer meditating. She turned around briefly. "So did you find what you were looking for in all that?"
Aang closed his eyes momentarily and opened them again. "I'm trying to figure out more of that last move I pulled while we were fighting Zhao Jr. in the Fire Lord's palace. I think I know how to do it, but I feel fatigued every time that I do."
Katara looked skeptical. "Then don't do it," she said.
"I can only access my full potential now when I'm in the Avatar State. But I want to avoid using the Avatar State for now since that assassin may still be hunting after me. I have to be cautious, but still be at my best."
"Whatever," Katara replied, rolling her eyes slightly and turning back to facing what was ahead of them on Appa.
"I know what I'm doing," Aang stated firmly. "But believe me – I am grateful for your concern, Katara. Since the Air Nomads have left this world now, you're my new family. Thanks for coming to accompany me on my Avatar missions."
Katara turned around again and gave off a trace of a smile. "You've always been family to me, Aang."
Aang smiled and nodded.
"Ever since I first met you after you emerged from the block of ice. You were charming but childish back then. You've become a whole new person many times over."
"I've seen you change a lot, too. I've always cared for you the same way. But you've grown in front of my eyes constantly. You always had that spark in you. You never gave up hope even when I felt like it myself. You picked me up whenever I fell down. You're driven – you mastered waterbending at any cost. And you're always ready to help those you care about. You are truly...amazing."
Katara blushed with the faintest trace of a giggle.
Aang stood up in the center of Appa's saddle. "There's something I want to show you Katara." With that, he concentrated hard and lifted his staff up further into the sky. "Something I've been wanting to do for a long time."
As Aang flung his staff around, seemingly doing a little bit of bending, Katara looked around herself curiously. The process took several minutes. Katara looked confused for a second, as Aang underwent motion after motion in front of her. At last he sat down, cross-legged.
"What was that?" Katara asked him.
"Look over there," Aang directed her, pointing.
Katara spun around. She saw that the clouds in front of them had been shaped precisely to spell out a message for her. She started to read it and then paused, evidently surprised.
"It's a lot harder to do that when you're not flying you're glider. Took me a few times practice to do it correctly."
Katara suddenly spun around and threw her arms around him. She buried her head in his shoulder for a second and then emerged. "Yes. Yes, Aang. I will."
Even though he had planned it, Aang was slightly taken aback. He pulled Katara closer to him. He had the warmest feeling he had ever experienced to date. "You will?"
Katara was teary-eyed. "Yes. I want to be with you...forever."
Southern Water Tribe
Aang was happy now that his engagement to Katara was real and they were to be husband and wife. Things seemed to be finally coming together for him. Then the in-laws came into the picture. When Katara's family found out about the arrangement, they accepted it at once. After all, they had known Aang for a while. The people of the Water Tribe did not ordinarily take kindly to cross-nation pairings, but since Aang was the Avatar and practically a member of the family already, they did not fuss about that. They did, however, insist on a traditional Southern Water Tribe wedding ceremony. Aang did not see how this could be trouble at first, so he put up no objections.
Then he saw what would be on the food menu for the occasion. Sea Crabs and the exquisite delicacy of Roast Polar Leopard Cuisine were prominent on the menu. As a vegetarian, Aang would not partake in that part of the meal. But what he could partake in was not much attractive to him either. Sure enough, the Sea Prune Stew was there. He remembered the disagreeable taste all too well from when he dined with Katara, Sokka and Bato at the Abbey during the War. He did not understand how the people of the Water Tribe could handle it. When he attempted to deal with this by adding fruit pies to the menu, his input was swiftly vetoed. Apparently, some did not think that fruit pies would fit well with the climate of the South Pole, where the wedding would be held. He would just have to deal with it, then.
The difficulties he encountered were by no means limited to food items. Kanna decreed that now that the engagement was official there would be minimal contact between the bride and groom until the day of the wedding. The people of the Southern Water Tribe were superstitious and Kanna was quite adamant about this. Pakku and Hakoda were as well. Aang was of course welcome to stay in the South Pole as much as he wished during the engagement, but he was forced to sleep in a different hut separated from Katara's. They would also not be allowed to have meals together.
Aang still had his Avatar duties to attend to. While he came and went from the South Pole as need be, his fiancé Katara remained at home. Her Gran Gran and a tight-nit group of women from the village made sure that she was prepared for her upcoming wedding and for marriage in general. At first Katara had seemed down about all the fuss being made over it – after all she was quite the independent type – but cheered up once it came time to design her dress.
Aang, on the other hand, was angry. He was not at all satisfied by the arrangements. When he vented to Hakoda about none of his people's traditions being incorporated into the process, Hakoda stated that as the Avatar, he could not remain overly-attached to any one nation. Hakoda had also pointed out to him that as the Avatar, he was also a waterbender and therefore, these traditions were his in a way as well. Not that Aang had ever been to an Air Nomad wedding or that he even knew much about it, but he resented being shut out like that. However, he was told that it was only implied that the bride's family have more sway in the wedding.
No matter what they said, Aang was still furious at the situation. He was the last of his entire culture – a living relic. The last of his people – the once proud Air Nomads, still walking the Earth. He may be the Avatar, but he cannot help but be very attached to his heritage. His heritage of a nation that had not existed in more than a century now. And the last Air Nomad would not have a wedding that even resembled an Air Nomad wedding.
However, it was not even this part that bothered him the most. He could not see Katara now. It felt like they had just begun a new adventure together. And they had grown closer than ever – ready to be together for the rest of their lives. And he was separated from her worse than he was when it was simply his Avatar duties that kept him from visiting his friends. Back then whenever he found the time to visit the South Pole, he could spend all his free time with Katara. Now he still had his Avatar duties but even when he was not busy, he was separated from her by her own tribe's traditions. The wedding was taking months to prepare for – as the wedding of the Avatar and the daughter of a Chief. Aang had hoped Katara would object to these constraining traditions as she did when she was at the North Pole with him aspiring to learn waterbending but was not allowed to because the waterbending Master Pakku would not train women in the art. Katara had been determined not to be put down by this and challenged Pakku to a fight in her fury. Upon discovering that she was his ex-fiance's granddaughter, Pakku had reconsidered. But she put up no such fight here. On the contrary – she seemed perfectly relaxed about it. Aang was confused. How could she not be feeling the same separation anxiety he had been feeling? Was she not as passionate about him as he was about her? Had they not just agreed to tie the knot together? How could she not miss being with him?
Aang decided he might feel better if he was more involved in the process. He approached Hakoda and Kanna and asked what he could do to help. They initially told him that it was not his place to do anything. When he insisted, they asked him to go with Sokka to harvest Sea Prunes for the stews. Oh great, he thought. Those disgusting little things I'm forced to eat later. But since he was the one who brought it up, he was unable to object. He set out with Sokka on a bright and breezy afternoon to complete this menial task at hand.
The Ridge Outside Katara's Village
Aang was looking dreadful, with his back hunched and a gloomy look on his face. Sokka, on the other hand, was looking cheerful. He was not particularly excited about harvesting Sea Prunes, but then again he was pretty much in a good mood about everything these days for some odd reason. Aang perked up a bit. At least he would have Sokka's company and terrible sarcastic jokes with him. They began to make small talk.
"So...nice day out today. Isn't it?" said Aang, trying to think of something more interesting to say next.
Sokka obliged for him, though. "Yeah, it is. So it's great you and my sister are finally getting together. I was a little caught off guard by it at first, but now I see it was meant to be from the start. I always thought me and Suki would marry each other first, but I guess you just had to beat me to the punch." With this, Sokka waved his fist in the air playfully at him.
"Heh." Aang blushed slightly and put his arm over his head to scratch his backside.
"Hmmph. So how was it that you popped the question to her again?"
"Well, it started when she and I were flying on Appa over Whale Tail Island. She was flying up front and I was in the saddle, meditating on that new Energy move..."
"Oh, you just have to mention that energybending of yours every other day now," Sokka groaned.
Aang ignored him. "So we were flying on Appa and after I came out of my meditation, I used my bending to spell it out in the clouds for her."
"Huh. Classy of you. I'll certainly find a way to top it though," Sokka added.
Aang was feeling better about it all now having such a lighthearted discussion with his future brother-in-law. "Yeah. I'm starting to feel excited about it now. It's just too bad whatever kids we have won't know my side of the family."
"The Air Nomads, ya'mean? Do you still miss them?" Sokka questioned.
"Yes, I definitely do," Aang admitted.
Sokka paused for a moment, then shrugged. "Why don't you just energybend some more of them?"
Aang looked quizzical. "Huh – what do you mean?"
"Well, you used this Energy stuff to take away Fire Lord Ozai's firebending in your final fight with him – as another way of defeating him without taking his life. Right?"
"So you could probably do the same thing and just give airbending abilities to someone else."
"No, I can't. It doesn't work like that," said Aang dismissively.
"How do you know? You tried it? It's pretty much the same as you did before, just the other way around. You bend the energy in somebody's body. You took away his firebending. You could probably give it back if you really wanted to. So you can give the bending to another person, too. And if you can do Fire then you can do Air."
"No, that's not how it works," said Aang impatiently. "You are either born a bender or you are not. Energybending cannot and will not change that."
"Ozai was born a bender, but you turned him into a non-bender," replied Sokka with another shrug.
"Well, yeah. But I'm not sure it works like that the other way around." The truth was, Aang wished it were true. What Sokka was saying – about granting airbending to someone else. But he knew that it wasn't. Energybending can bend another's energy, yes. But what did that have to do with being a bender. Maybe Ozai still did have some firebending traits in him and Aang just shut them off so he couldn't use them anymore. But then again, the Lion Turtle had not told him how it worked. The Lion Turtle just told him what he needed to know and sent him on his way.
As he harvested Sea Prunes with Sokka and tried not to think about the stew they would be used to make later, he pondered the question further. "Well, even if it were possible – who would I even ask about it? I can't just count on bumping into the Lion Turtle again."
"Don't you have the mastery of all the past Avatars when you're in the Avatar State? Glow it up and you can do it. It's an Avatar ability, right?"
"No. On the contrary – energybending is the form of bending people practiced in the days before the Avatar Cycle. Before the four elemental bending arts. The Avatar is the master of all four elements. I learned of it from the Lion Turtle. None of my past lives suggested it. The Avatar has the ability to bend Energy, but as far as I know no Avatar before me has ever done it before."
Sokka looked taken aback for a second. "Wow. So you may be the first Avatar ever to bend Energy then."
"Yeah. When I'm in the Avatar State I feel nothing of energybending. Maybe now that I have done it the next Avatar will be able to, though." Aang stared at the ground modestly.
Sokka looked like he was running a complex math equation in his head. "Well...since you don't know anything about energybending, maybe you could start by learning about the Energy itself? That may give you a clue on how to bend it. Have you ever heard anyone go on about spiritual or bodily Energy before?"
Aang thought for a moment. Then it came to him. "That Guru who taught me about Chakras and the Avatar State mentioned something about Energies. It's not energybending per se, but if he tells me about beings Energy, maybe that will point me in the right direction of where to go next."
"Where is this Guru guy now?"
"I think he's still at the Eastern Air Temple. That's where I met him last time. It was a while ago, I know. But it seemed like he had already been there for some time. And he didn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. I should travel there on Appa tomorrow. I'll see if I can find him."
"Sounds like a plan," Sokka said while standing up and taking a stretch. "I'll be joining you."
"What – why do you want to go there?" Aang was really surprised.
"Well, with this big wedding coming up and all the villagers are all starting to think about romance more and more. Some of the younger girls have been stalking me. It's kind of annoying. I need any excuse to get away from them. Even if it's going to this Air Temple of yours for you to learn about Energy mumbojumbo."
"Let's do it then. We can leave tomorrow morning." Aang grinned. Suddenly the Sea Prunes did not seem like they would taste so bad.
TO BE CONTINUED...
- Each of the bending arts in Avatar: The Last airbender is styled like a real-world martial art: waterbending like Tai chi, earthbending like Hung Ga kung fu, firebending like Northern Shaolin kung fu and airbending like Baguazhang. In the Avatar: Energy Saga continuity, energybending is styled as a blend between Aikido and Taekwondo. Aikido comprises the bulk of it, with some definite exceptions. The more aggressive and offensive techniques in particular are more close to Taekwondo.
- This was originally going to be one chapter with the one following it, but it was decided that there was too much content for one episode and the chapter was hence split up.
For the collective works of the author, go here.